Curate, verb

  1. Select, organise, and look after the items in (a collection or exhibition).
    1. Select the performers or performances that will feature in (an arts event or programme).
    2. Select, organise, and present (online content, merchandise, information, etc.), typically using professional or expert knowledge.

Curators are charged with the selection, organisation, and care of, the items in exhibitions and/or the collection of a museum or other exhibition site. These items typically include artefacts from the arts (e.g. paintings and sculptures); from different cultures (e.g. types of clothing); and, increasingly, technological and design artefacts (varying from steam engines to classic chair designs or the latest smartphone). In addition, as was pointed out by The New York Times in 2009, curating has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to apply it to any activity that involves culling and selection, as a way of signalling that they “have a discerning eye and great taste.” (Since that publication, the use of the term curating has only increased). Persons involved in curating exhibitions and other events are often required to rethink the role of the curator. How, for instance, does one curate when artists leave their studios to perform in public space rather than showing their work in a gallery? Or how does one display a particular technological progress when a large part of the development is not manifested by the hardware but hidden in the software? And how to curate design research, in which the process of thinking-through-making is at least as important as the end result? At Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) such issues have to be addressed both in relation to annual events such as the Graduation Show and the Salone del Mobile, as well as on a more fundamental level. DAE’s Master in Design Curating and Writing builds its curriculum around issues related to exhibition-making, presentations, building collections, archiving, and the dialogue between exhibition spaces and the public. The curriculum includes both the practice of curating and a critical analysis of, and reflection on, the tools that curators have at their disposal. During the art and design research program TRADERS, in which DAE has participated (2013-2017), Michael Kaethler (2017) addressed the role of the curator by asking what is needed to connect (and create) knowledge from different domains. Kaether understands curating as an approach aiming at forging passages between different worlds of knowledge – for instance between the sciences, humanities, design, and the arts. This approach involves communication across boundaries, which in turn requires activities such as translating and mediating. Kaethler argues that curating in this sense is not merely descriptive but, rather, active and transformative, because translation involves manipulation and transformation, and mediation implies participation and intervention.

DAE Examples

  • Olle Lundin, Qwearing the Collection, Graduation project Man and Communication, 2016

  • Jason Page, DPBLSHD RPBLSHD, Graduation project Man and Communication, 2014

  • Envisions, Alumni, since 2016


  • Kaethler, M. (2017). Curating: lexicon, pp. 134-136. In: D. Hamers, N. Bueno de Mesquita, A. Vaneycken and J. Schoffelen (eds.), Trading places: Practices of public participation in art and design Research. Barcelona: dpr-Barcelona.
  • Kaethler, M. (2017). The curator as Hermes: a mediator between knowledge worlds, pp. 137-142. In: D. Hamers, N. Bueno de Mesquita, A. Vaneycken and J. Schoffelen (eds.), Trading places: Practices of public participation in art and design Research. Barcelona: dpr-Barcelona.
  • Lind, M. (2010). The curatorial. In: Wood, B. (Ed.), Selected Maria Lind writing. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
  • Martinon, J. (Ed.) (2013). The curatorial: A philosophy of curating. London: A&C Black.
  • Obrist, H. and Lamm, A. (2011). Everything you always wanted to know about curating* but were afraid to ask. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
  • O’Neill, P. (2012). The culture of curating and the curating of culture(s). Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Serres, M. (1997). The troubadour of knowledge. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.